Danny Burrows’ Best Photographs | My Life In Pictures
The adventure photographer talks us through the best five pictures he's ever taken
Danny Burrows was born in the UK, but grew up in South America, Nigeria and the US, an upbringing which has undoubtedly shaped his internationalist outlook. He joined Mpora’s sister title Onboard Magazine in the 90s and quickly rose through the ranks to become its editor-in-chief.
Based in Chamonix and Munich, his words and pictures helped shape the direction of European snowboarding for more than 20 years, launching many a young ripper’s career and earning the mag a hugely-respected reputation on both sides of the Atlantic.
Since leaving Onboard Danny has continued to photograph action and adventure sports, but has also pursued other projects - notably a searing reportage series which documents the day-to-day lives of refugees in the camps of Northern France. Here he talks us through his inspirations, his idols and his five all-time favourite images.
My first proper camera was a Contax T2. As children, my sister and I had snappy cameras and Polaroids, and my father was a keen photographer, but I didn’t get that until I moved to London and started assisting a fashion photographer. I made a lot of cups of tea, got belittled regularly and saw how shallow fashion is, but I did learn a few things about photography. My boss told me the Contax T2 was a must have - apparently Terry Richardson (who I am actually not a fan of) shot with one.
I’ve discovered my true photographic passion is documentary and current affairs. I’ve been involved in action sports for a long time so I’ve shot a lot of sport and lifestyle, but I’ve spent the last two and a half years in the refugee camps of Northern France working on a long term project called “Indeterminate State". The people there, both volunteers and refugees, have been some of the most generous and loving people I have ever met and the experience of immersing oneself in a world beyond the shallow consumerism of our own has been truly life-changing.
Storytelling is massively important to me. To go through life learning about the world by means of secondhand sources is not only boring, it’s also superficial. I love the potency of photographs and their ability to change minds. Images like the little girl running away from a napalm attack in Vietnam, or the little boy washed up on a Greek beach made ordinary people get out and do extraordinary things to help others.
"I love the potency of photographs and their ability to change minds."
I have too many photographic heroes to list. I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the most extraordinary photographers in action sports over the years; people like Blotto, Matt Georges, Dr. Zapalac, Sami Tuoriniemi, Pat Vermeulen, Vincent Skoglund, Peter Lundstrom and so many more. But I’m also inspired by documentary photographers like Mary Ellen Mark, Dayanita Singh, Diane Arbus and Giles Duley - perhaps the nicest person I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.
As a teenager I had an unhealthy interest in war, and I still find war photography truly inspiring. The depiction of chaos in images that are stuffed to the very edge of the negative with multiple layers of action - like the masterpieces by Magnum photographers and the likes of Tim Hetherington or Don McCullen.
If I had to pick one photo that I’d have loved to have shot it would be the picture of the lone man with his shopping, blocking a column of tanks as they crawl towards the protests in Tiananmen Square. It’s such a powerful image, perhaps one of the greatest to have mobilized people to demand an end to war, or to help in whatever way they can in a crisis. Had I shot that picture I would feel that I had done something worthy of praise.
The Air & Style is one of the key events in the competitive schedule of snowboarding. It’s been the arena for so much of the greatest riding in the past 30 years. Seppe is a cool shredder too with plenty of style, which is also why I like the shot. Shooting events isn’t something that staff photographers of magazines normally want to do but I really enjoyed it. It was one of the few times when I felt that I could submit my pictures to the magazine I was editing.
This picture is from a trip we did to the East Coast of the USA for Onboard. Espen Lystad was the official trip photographer so I got to mess around shooting stuff just for myself. I only brought one lens and one film camera and it really restricted me to what and how I shot, in a good way. I really loved the experience and the crew was cool - except for one American rider (whose name I will not mention) who threw litter out of the car window. I said that we’d never run an shot of him in the mag after that. I really hate people who litter
"I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the most extraordinary photographers in action sports over the years."
Over the two years I worked in the camps in Northern France I came to love and respect the refugees, the migrants and the volunteers who helped them. When the camps were destroyed I felt like I was watching the burning of a town that I new well, and the dislocation of a population who had already suffered so much.
The “Jungle" [as it was known] was not a good place, but when the authorities of the country you have sought refuge in reject you, then what choice do you have? The Jungle becomes your neighbourhood and its people your neighbours. This picture of the final day of the Jungle saddens me but I like it as a picture.
Many of the young people who lived in the camps had endured horrific journeys to get there, but were running from even greater horrors at home. The Jungle Book Café was designed to provide a safe space for the under 18s. These young people were so resilient and despite their ordeal they remained children at heart. I couldn’t help but think that if the UK was to take them in, their eternal gratitude would mean they’d be great assets to the country in the future. They were all hungry to prove their worth in the world.
Having returned to the UK from Munich I have had to find another sport to replace the rush of snowboarding regularly, and I’ve taken to open water swimming. This is an image of Howard James, an absolutely incredible endurance swimmer, who last year broke two world records for the earliest and the latest swims across the English Channel. The ability to swim for over 9 hours in water that hovers around nine degree celsius baffles and astounds me.